ID: J. Cherry Sullivan, abuse-prevention professional

  • Cherry Sullivan Gazette Staff/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 10/20/2016 3:28:35 PM

J. Cherry Sullivan is a health disparities researcher, who focuses on understanding the root causes of inequalities as they relate to healthcare. Prior to her current efforts, with drug abuse prevention, she held positions in higher education and at area medical facilities. She says that although she’s naturally a gregarious person, and often in leadership and organizing roles, she’s not used to being the center of attention. But, she adds, she’s learning not to take a backseat role, and to take credit for the work she does.

Full name: J. Cherry Sullivan

People know you as: Cherry

Date and place of birth: Sept. 19, Springville, New York; a small corn and cow town south of Buffalo

Town of residence: Easthampton — I am in love with that scrappy little city.

Job: Coordinator of Hampshire HOPE, the County’s Heroin and Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition

Who lives under the same roof as you? My wife, AJ, and an array of children

Children: We are foster parents, meaning any given day can look quite different in our home.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Stony Brook University and master’s degree in public health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Pets: The two best hiking/walking partners,  Scout and Red Dog (everyone who sees them comments on how gorgeous they are), and a black, fluffy cat named Raven (who has a love/hate relationship with everyone). We also have a houseful of other critters that we’ve collected, including two guinea pigs, a snake (she’s pink!) and a toad.

Hobbies: I love being active — road biking, hiking, swimming, softball, yoga. I also like live music and board games (double bonus if I get to enjoy simultaneously). Our family likes to travel, camp and be outdoors. I really enjoy cooking and preserving food. I excel at Pinterest fails. I mostly prefer social activities, but more and more I am appreciating curling up with a good book when I can get a half-hour to myself.

Book you’d recommend to a friend: Anything by Jody Picoult. She does an amazing job exploring complicated social and political issues by weaving in the many nuanced angles that these difficult topics have.

Favorite movie/music: I recently re-watched “The Neverending Story,” a movie that I saw many times throughout my childhood. As an adult, I picked up on profound themes that, as a child, I could never have understood. Even as an adult, I had to walk out of the room when Artax was being consumed by sadness and is enveloped by the swamp. That scene has scarred an entire generation. 

As for music, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite band, but a song that has deeply resonated with me over the past few years is Ani DiFranco’s “Joyful Girl.”

Five things you can't live without: My bike(s), chapstick, public libraries, a camera, dental floss

Last thing you purchased just for fun: A sticker book. I said it was for the kids — but I really wanted it for myself.

What's at the top of your bucket list? To ride my bike across the United States

Life-changing experience: After college, I spent time volunteering in Ghana. My altruistic, young self thought I would go to oversees to help. What a life lesson about privilege and the notion of what “helping” even means. I could write forever about what that trip brought to my life, but most importantly it was undeniably an experience that has completely shaped both the everyday and big-life decisions of how I walk through the world.

Strangest job you ever held: I haven’t really had a strange job – but as a college health sexuality educator I’ve done and said some strange things. I once bought a bedazzled blazer just to be able to wear it as a sex jeopardy game show host.

Your current Facebook status: An excerpt from a Thich Nhat Hanh poem: “I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. / The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.”

A little-known fact about you: I was marching-band queen in high school. It’s OK to laugh.

One product you’d like to see return: Home phones. As much as I appreciate the convenience of cells, I miss the connection that comes with having a landline as a primary phone — whether it’s more communication with my partner’s family or having a better sense of the friends in my kids’ lives.

What really sets you off? People who don’t seem to care how their actions impact others or the environment, animal cruelty, most things on TV, messy desks.

If you could spend the day with a celebrity from any time in history, who would it be? Margaret Mead — she was a pioneer in the field of anthropology and an activist.

Favorite place to get a bite: I like to go to Slainte in Holyoke for their outdoor seating, a good view, good food and easy parking.

Favorite team or athlete: I love participating in sports and attending sporting events. But I don’t follow a team or have a favorite athlete anymore. I feel torn between enjoying sports and being disgusted by the sexism and capitalism that exists in professional sports.

What does your ideal weekend look like? Early-morning hike with the dogs, reading the paper with a cup of coffee, going to a Valley community event with the family, cooking and being with friends

One thing you would change about yourself: I’d accept praise better.

What gives you the creeps? Antique dolls. Especially if there are many in a room.

People who knew you in high school thought you were: Probably a little wacky. I won “funniest female” for our senior yearbook superlatives and I never really understood why.

Whom do you most admire? Every child that walks through my door. I can’t even imagine the strength it takes to survive (some better than others) what they go through.

Parting shot: Inspire by example.

— Compiled by Brenda Nelson

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